In the front window of Indulgence café and bakery in Hillcrest is a wedding cake topped with emblematic bride and groom figurines. The cake fits the scene, but the happily dancing newlyweds seem out of place in a bakery dominated by chic cuisine and progressive politics. A sign of the times, Indulgence specializes in low-carb, sugar-free treats and, for tonight at least, is the epicenter of San Diego's bisexual and transgender community.
On the eve of the 30th Pride Parade, members of the bisexual and transgender communities have gathered here for the first annual Bisexuals and Friends Gathering. As people chat over sugar-free brownies and coffee with Sweet 'N Low, there is a sense of togetherness spiked with concern.
The gathering is meant to be a platform to voice discontent with the San Diego Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender [LGBT] Pride board. Earlier in the week, the LGBT Pride board decided to fly the transgender and bisexual flags on the stage at their annual Pride weekend kick-off, but denied a request for a bisexually identified speaker at the rally. Richard Woulfe, vice chair of the Bisexual Foundation and tonight's master of ceremonies, sees a disconnect between the board's actions and its mission.
"Displaying the flags and having us march at the front of the parade shows positive movement on Pride's part," Woulfe says. "But we're really disappointed at not having bisexual representation on the stage at the rally."
For many at Indulgence tonight, the lack of a bisexual speaker epitomizes Pride's hypocrisy when it comes to inclusiveness. Over the last four years, Woulfe and others have lobbied Pride for the greater inclusion of the bisexual and transgender communities. The apparent irony of the situation is not lost on Woulfe and when he takes the microphone to open the event, he shouts the point home.
"Do you consider yourself included under their rainbow flag?" he asks. "Their [LGBT Pride's] mission statement says they are supposed to foster pride and respect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Hey, we're the B and the T in the LGBT. So where's our speaker?"
But Pride spokesman Frank Sabatini-who helped organize the larger LGBT rally across town-doesn't see the disconnect.
"Years ago, Pride officially changed its name to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride because bisexuals and transgender people are part of our community. They are a valuable part of our community," Sabatini says. "San Diego LGBT Pride is built on inclusiveness, and it will continue to be inclusive."
Linda Maepa has been part of "queer activism" for decades, but she doesn't see the all-inclusiveness Pride touts. For years, Maepa identified herself as a lesbian, but now she identifies herself as bisexual. This has put her at odds with both straights and lesbians because neither community accepts the bisexual label, she says.
Maepa had planned to speak at the larger rally as the bisexual representative, but now she's here to address the crowd at Indulgence. Taking the microphone from Woulfe, she says she had a prepared speech, but it doesn't seem to fit now so she'll instead just speak from the heart.
"When I first saw the bi-flag flying at the Organ Pavilion," where the LGBT Pride rally is held, "I started crying," she says. "Then I started jumping up and down shouting, "We did it, Richard [Woulfe], we did it.'"
Maepa's words are greeted by cathartic cheering. She continues, saying that that moment was a milestone for her and all bisexuals, but that their community is not there yet, not until she and others escape being hidden in the LGBT acronym.
"I'm so tired of being lost in the alphabet soup. It's time for a change" says Maepa. "We're becoming an itch for the LGBT community, and that's a good thing-it means that there will be healing and change."
Woulfe closes the meeting by showing off stacks of glossy color cards. The cards have the transgender flag on one side and the bisexual flag on the other. They also have definitions of what each flag means and how it was designed. There are thousands of these cards, he says, and he wants every one of them to be handed out at the next day's parade.
As the meeting breaks up, there seems to be a lot momentum and solidarity in the group, yet the next day, their effort is diluted in the raucous festival-like atmosphere. The bisexual and transgender community do seem to be lost in the soup. Along the Hillcrest parade route, most hands hold beads or beers and not Woulfe's cards.
At the front of the parade, many bisexual and transgender marchers walk with confidence. But what follows them-a mix of the obvious (a youth group blasting "YMCA" from their float) and the corporate (entries by Starbucks and Fantastic Sams)-mutes the political and empowerment messages.
But for Tracy O'Brien, who carried the transgender flag into the parade's homestretch, the momentum was there, however small or diluted.
"This isn't the first time we've marched, but it's the first time we were right up front," she says. "Each year we get noticed more and more, each year we have a bigger and bigger contingent."